Cory | Poker Articles, Poker Cash Games, Poker Strategy
Submitted by Cory, this article belongs to Poker Cash Games series.
In this article series, Cory sums up the top 10 most important limit poker cash game strategy tips. Enjoy!
In the last article we talked about learning limit hold ‘em cash games before jumping in to no limit cash games. I hope you all understand why this is really a good idea and are ready to start the min-bet craziness. If so, here are ten tips I’ve gather to get you started on a successful journey to beating low stakes limit hold ‘em. Of course, this isn’t everything, but, it’s a good start. If you just learn these things you should be turning a profit at the $.25-$.50 cent on line, or any $3-$6 live game you might jump in to at a casino. Have fun.
Tip #1. Pre-flop hand selection is important, but…
It’s not the be-all and end-all of winning limit hold ‘em. Too many books focus on starting hand charts and how you should always play tight aggressive no matter what. A tight aggressive style might be your best bet to putting yourself in a position to win low stakes limit poker, but pre-flop is just one round of betting; it’s also a round of small bets, so the most you’re going to lose due to a pre-flop mistake is four small bets or two big bets. Of course you don’t want to be making mistakes for four small bets, but making a mistake on the turn for four big bets will eat away your bankroll much faster.
So no, I’m not going to give a stupid starting hand chart. This is what you need to know about pre-flop limit games. Big cards are more valuable in limit games than in no limit games. That is because top pair good kicker can go to showdown a lot cheaper and you can draw to a Broadway straight a lot cheaper. However, small pairs and suited connectors go down in value because limit hold ‘em is more of a pot odds game than an implied odds game. So in no limit a hand like KJS from UTG is an easy throw-away, in a limit game it sounds like two bets to me. In a no limit game when you’re 100BBS deep and an opponent raises to 3X, calling with 22 is pretty standard. In a limit game, often times you’ll be folding the 22 because you can’t stack him if you hit a set. Play big cards more aggressively and try to get heads up. The only time you’re playing suited connectors is on the cheap in a multi-way pot.
#2. Creating dead money and buying some outs.
This is a very important concept both pre-flop and on the flop. Let’s say we’re on the button with 55 and the cut off raises and makes it two bets to go. We could call with position, but we’re pricing in both blinds and we’re allowing four more over cards to take a flop against us. We can generally assume that the cutoff has 2 overs to our hand, so we could take this flop hoping to hit a set or dodge six overs, or we could raise hoping the blinds will fold to three bets and take a flop against just one opponent with only two overs against us.
This is also important on the flop. The other night I was playing $3-$6 hold ‘em when I called one more bet from the big blind with AS 5S. The flop came down 4S, TS, 2H. We’re four handed and I check. The original raiser checks and someone in later position bets. When it gets back to me I raise to two bets and got the original raiser to fold what he told me later was A J. This means I just created dead money and bought extra outs. Before I made it two bets my Ace was dominated, so hitting a pair of aces would have been bad for my hand. I had 12 outs to win the pot. By forcing the bigger Ace out I turned my hand from a 12 out draw to a 14 out draw. If I would have lead out at this flop with my big draw everyone would have called for one more small bet and I wouldn’t have gotten those extra two outs.
Tip #3. Pay attention to the texture of the flop and play your hand accordingly.
I can’t say enough about board texture in both limit and no limit hold ‘em. In limit though it’s one of the best ways to make sense out of your opponent’s bets. For example let’s say we have AD KD and we’re out of position. The flop is AH, 9H, 3S. We lead at this flop and our opponent makes it two bets. This can mean a few different things. Either he’s drawing and is trying to induce us to check to him on the turn, he’s got a hand that he thinks is good like A Q, or A J, or he’s got a set or two pair like Aces and nines. We’ve just narrowed down his range a lot.
Now let’s take another example where we have AD, KD and the flop is AH, QS, JC. This board has a few more scary combinations out there if we get two bet on the flop. He obviously can’t have a flush draw, but AQ, AJ and QJ as well as, QQ and JJ are all easily in his range, not to mention KT. We could be in a lot of trouble on this flop.
For a more extreme example, we have AD TD and the flop is TH, 9H, 8H. We still have top pair top kicker, but four pocket pairs still beat us, we could be drawing very slim up against a flop straight or flush or dead against a straight flush. Not to mention that 12 different over cards could hit the turn that are likely to improve our opponent’s hand, but don’t improve ours. Our relative hand strength is terrible.
Tip #4. Free card for sale, learn to buy it.
In the last section you remember we talked about someone trying to induce a check on the turn with a flush draw by making it two bets on the flop. This is called the free card play and it can be extremely effective against low stakes limit hold ‘em players. Here’s how it works.
We have AD, KD in position and the flop is QD, 8D, 2C. We have a flush draw and our opponent bets in to us. We could call to see the turn and maybe our flush comes home, but if it doesn’t our opponent, who already has the lead in the hand is likely going to maintain the lead by betting the turn. We can save ourselves one small bet by making it two bets on the flop and taking the lead ourselves. Most players adopt a check to the raiser mentality without even realizing it, so since we took the last aggressive action on the flop, our opponent is going to be far more likely to check to us on the turn. When the turn comes and does not complete our draw, we can check behind and we get to see the river for free for a net savings of one small bet. However, if our draw comes home we can go ahead and bet out at it since our opponent is already expecting us to bet since we had the last aggressive action. We can also bet if we spike a pair.
Tip #5. Check raising for value, check raising to bluff and defending against the check raise.
You probably recall me saying that check raising is over rated in no limit hold ‘em, but it’s essential to winning at limit hold ‘em. Here is why.
Check raising is most often used for value. In this example we’re in the big blind and the button opens for two bets. We defend with JS TS and the flop is JH, 9S, 4S. If we go ahead and lead out with this hand, we’re probably only going to get the button to commit one bet on the flop and he very well might fold on the turn and we have top pair, a flush draw and a back door straight draw. We want action on this hand. Our better play is to check, since the button had the last aggressive action, he’s likely to try and maintain the lead in the hand by continuation betting then we can raise and low stakes players are rarely folding in this spot even if they completely missed the flop. We’ve just doubled our money by check raising.
If you notice a player continuation betting every time he gets heads up, you can also check raise bluff if you’re out of position. The reason this works so well is he’s likely to have a very wide range and while he might not fold on the flop, he’s folding the turn a very high percentage of the time. So sometimes, in the right situation, with absolutely nothing you can check raise the flop and lead at the turn and against the right opponent you will get a lot of folds and take down pots without a showdown. You can really only do this heads up against players who continuation bet the flop by default.
If you’re the one getting check raised too much you’ll need to learn how to defend against it. The first thing you can do is don’t automatically continuation bet against someone who check raises a lot, or when you hit the flop, or feel you have the best hand, go ahead and bet and when your opponent check raises, just call. Remember, his default play is to try and bluff you off the pot with a bet on the turn if you let him have the last aggressive action on the flop. When he bets the turn expecting you to fold, raise. If you use this play against someone enough they’ll think twice before bluff check raising you.
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